Ohio Anti-Saloon League

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The Ohio Anti-Saloon League was an important prohibition organization in the United States of America in the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries.

On May 24, 1893, temperance advocates formed the Ohio Anti-Saloon League in Oberlin, Ohio. Many of the members of the organization believed that American society was in moral decline. As people moved from rural areas to the cities, some people believed that Americans were losing touch with their religious values and were becoming corrupted by consuming alcohol. The Ohio Anti-Saloon League hoped to reduce alcohol consumption and possibly prohibit its use by enforcing existing laws and by implementing new ones. This organization also sought to eliminate bars, taverns, and saloons, believing that these businesses promoted the consumption of alcohol. In 1893, temperance supporters in Washington, DC, formed their own Anti-Saloon League. The Ohio and Washington Leagues joined to create the National Anti-Saloon League. The new national organization later became the Anti-Saloon League of America.

The Ohio Anti-Saloon League and its parent organization hoped to close down saloons. League members believed that consumption would decrease if Americans did not have places to buy alcohol. The national group and its subsidiaries used local churches to recruit followers. The Methodist Church became quite active in the movement against alcohol. The organization also lobbied members of the Democratic and Republican Parties to support Prohibition. The Anti-Saloon League never endorsed one party over the other. It preferred to endorse the candidate and his or her view on alcohol, not the party.

Governor Myron T. Herrick of Ohio was a member of the Republican Party and strongly opposed the Ohio Anti-Saloon League's attempt to allow local communities to prohibit alcohol. In the Governor's race in 1909, the Ohio league first sought a Republican to challenge Herrick for the party's nomination. Failing to find a potential candidate, the League endorsed the Democratic candidate, John M. Pattison. Pattison easily won the election and demonstrated the increasing power of the Ohio Anti-Saloon League and the Anti-Saloon League of America.

To bring its message to the American people, the Anti-Saloon League developed its own publishing house called the American Issue Publishing Company. This firm was based in Westerville, Ohio, and was headed by Ernest Cherrington. The Anti-Saloon League's primary product was the American Issue newspaper, but it issued number of other publications as well. At one point in its history, the League issued more than forty tons of anti-liquor publications every month.

For the first fifteen years of its existence, the Anti-Saloon League and its subsidiaries focused on implementing anti-alcohol laws in local communities. As support grew, to include such prominent Americans as John D. Rockefeller, the League began a national to implement national Prohibition. In 1913, the League sponsored a parade in Washington, DC. The League's superintendent, Purley Baker, presented a proposed amendment to the United States Senate and the House of Representatives. This document would be the basis for the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Anti-Saloon League of America and its state organizations sent the Congress a large number of letters and petitions demanding the prohibition of alcohol.

With the outbreak of World War I, the League also used anti-German sentiment to fight for Prohibition. Many brewers in the United States were of German heritage. Arguing for patriotism and morality, the Anti-Saloon League succeeded in getting the Eighteenth Amendment passed by the Congress and ratified by the necessary number of states.

With Prohibition in effect, the Anti-Saloon League entered a difficult period. Wayne Wheeler, a prominent League member, believed that the League should focus on enforcing Prohibition by enacting more stringent laws. Ernest Cherrington disagreed and argued that educating children about the evils of alcohol would prevent the consumption of liquor and the flaunting of the law in the future. This division dramatically weakened the Anti-Saloon League and allowed opponents of Prohibition to build support for their position.

Many temperance advocates believed that the struggle was over once Prohibition went into effect and no longer participated in the Anti-Saloon League. Prominent financial backers withdrew their support as well. Opponents of Prohibition introduced the Twenty-First Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1933. In the following year, a sufficient number of states ratified the new amendment and Prohibition ended with the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment.

The Anti-Saloon League of America has had several changes in name and scope of its activities since the adoption of the Twenty-First Amendment. It is currently known as the American Council on Alcohol Problems.

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